When Cooking was a Crime:
Masak in the Singapore Prisons, 1970s-80s
Sheere Ng, Don Wong


During the 1970s and 1980s in Singapore's prisons and Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs), cooking was a challenging and illegal task for male inmates. Despite the obstacles, they ingeniously found ways to cook using unconventional resources such as chamber pots and blankets.

When Cooking was a Crime provides a rare insight into prison life's flavours through the recollections of eight former inmates. Through interviews and recreated photographs, it examines how food and cooking gained new significance within the confines of incarceration.

This remarkable editorial piece emphasizes the multifaceted nature of food. It goes beyond cultural identity and familial symbolism, presenting food as a right, a symbol of freedom, a form of control, a playful act, and a source of comfort. It becomes a currency, a means of communication and representation, revealing a more complex and encompassing reality. Food becomes a shared solace and an exercise in empathy.

Published by In Plain Words
Research and texts by Sheere Ng
Photography by Don Wong
Designed by Practice Theory
250 x 176 mm
128 pages
French fold, otabind + softcover with plastic sleeves